Our Response to Universal Credit inquiry.

Evidence from our community shows that monthly payments and long waiting times has had a direct impact on street begging and shoplifting.

Expert Link, as a national voice for those suffering multiple disadvantage, has responded to the Work and Pensions Select Committees Universal Credit inquiry. Expert Link aims to amplify the voices of those suffering multiple disadvantage to influence policy both nationally and locally.

People with multiple disadvantage face or suffer from a combination of homelessness, mental illness, substance and alcohol misuse, abuse, domestic violence and the criminal justice system. Expert Link works with local and national groups as well as individuals that have experience of multiple disadvantage.

In our research, we found that long waiting times for initial assessments and payments, along with monthly payments, left people unable to manage financially. This in turn drove recipients of Universal Credit who suffer from multiple disadvantage to find alternative ways to survive financially.

“It’s a minimum 6 weeks wait. What are you meant to do in that time? It’s a vicious circle – crime begging”

As most are not in the labour force, the alternatives that people were left with sit outside of the law. Having to choose between the law and “survival” just exacerbated already dire situations. Often those caught begging would find themselves facing fines with no means to pay them or were sanctioned for non-attendance of JCP appointments because they were appearing in court or being held by the police.

Rather than deter, sanctions and fines had the opposite effect. It placed people in an even worse situation driving them to find new ways, or in some cases go back to old ways, to fund themselves.

Official figures show that there was a 5% increase in shoplifting during 2016. In areas that Universal Credit has been imposed people are telling us that shoplifting and begging has increased. People suffering from multiple disadvantage, often with very poor educational experiences, struggle to manage money.

“Universal Credit: Its having a big effect, either commit crime or beg”

What I am extremely proud of is that we, the community of lived experience of multiple needs, did our own research, collected our stories and submitted our own response to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee inquiry on Universal Credit.

To see our report and our recommendations follow the link here.